Absence of envoy in Malaysia ‘weakened’ protection of workers, say Indonesian reps
KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — Indonesia lawmakers have demanded their government appoint a permanent ambassador here, alleging that the absence of an official has “weakened” the neighbouring country’s protection of its workers.
The nation’s last accredited ambassador to Malaysia was former national police chief Da’i Bachtiar, whose appointment ended in June last year. Deputy Ambassador Mulya Wirana was appointed as his acting replacement.
Mahfudz Shiddiq, the chairman of House Commission I overseeing foreign affairs, told the Jakarta Post he was at a loss to explain why the post has been vacant for almost a year.
“We honestly don’t know where the problem is. It is not clear to us whether the administrative procedure is stuck with the President, the Cabinet Secretary or perhaps the Foreign Ministry. Those three institutions have the authority to appoint ambassadors,” Mahfudz was quoted as saying.
Mahfudz, a Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician, claimed that the absence of a permanent ambassador to Malaysia had weakened Indonesian diplomacy, especially in the protection of Indonesia migrant workers.
“The presence of an ambassador, the official representative of the nation, would hopefully strengthen Indonesia’s bargaining position,” he said.
The investigation of the shooting deaths of three migrant workers from West Nusa Tenggara in Malaysia had been hindered by the absence of an ambassador, he added, referring to the Malaysian police shooting of three Indonesian nationals who had been suspected of burglary and robbery in Port Dickson.
“The diplomatic effort to strive for justice for the three workers can be pursued to the best if only we have an ambassador there. We call on the government to soon submit candidate names to us so we can arrange ‘fit-and-proper’ tests to select the best candidate,” Mahfudz said.
Another Indonesian lawmaker, Commission I deputy chairman TB Hasanuddin, echoed Mahfudz’s statements, saying that Jakarta must “stop rambling over unimportant issues” and prioritise on protecting the rights of over four million Indonesians currently working in Malaysia.
But Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene told Jakarta Post that the absence of permanent ambassador here has had little impact on the nation’s diplomacy.
“Our embassy in Malaysia still functions normally. Our partnership with the nation goes on as well. We have accomplished important things, even without a presence of an ambassador” Michael said.
Indonesian human rights activists had alleged that Malaysia is the “most unsafe” destination for their migrant workers and urged Jakarta to freeze all diplomatic ties with Malaysia until the issue was rectified.
The Jakarta Post reported yesterday that the activists asked Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take tough action against the Malaysian government, which they hold responsible for alleged violence against Indonesian migrant workers, until Putrajaya improves protection for the group.
The activists also accused Putrajaya of intimidating Malaysian human rights activist Irene Fernandez, the executive director of Tenaganita, “who has long stood up for migrant workers”.
The Jakarta Post had on Monday reported Fernandez as saying, among others, that Malaysia was not safe for Indonesian workers because it did not have a legal framework or specific laws to protect migrant workers.
Putrajaya has dismissed Fernandez’s claims, with Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim saying that thousands of migrant workers are still pouring into the country.
He said on the social network site Twitter yesterday that the “millions” of migrant workers already in Malaysia are “happy”, appearing to suggest that they are happy with work conditions and treatment received.
“Malaysia not safe say Irene Fernandez n some Indonesian NGOs but millions are here happy n thousands still coming,” tweeted Rais using the Twitter handle @DrRaisYatim.
Indonesia recently lifted the moratorium on the supply of domestic workers to Malaysia, but Indonesian Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar has repeatedly said Jakarta would not send workers until Putrajaya could ensure their protection.